You may be wondering what the subject of this letter is pertaining to, so let me explain.
Often when our young people arrive home from a long day at school, they can be reluctant to engage in a conversation about their day. They may be tired, focusing on their social media, or just simply not wishing to chat. It is important in our role as parents that we take the time to “dig a little deeper” in these moments. It is not unreasonable to ask your child to put down their phone/device and spend 5-10 minutes talking with you (and this applies at any age).
Engaging and exploring what has happened during their school day, who they are chatting with on their social media, and generally how they are feeling about themselves and their friends, are so important in ensuring our relationships with our children remain strong and open. Sharing their experiences on social media openly and having the confidence to share their conversations with you is one way that you can easily monitor their activity, rather than having to check their phones whilst they are asleep.
We know that our children are keen to explore the wider world but this has to be done with supervision and support, so that they are knowledgeable enough to deal with anything they face and have the confidence to talk to a trusted adult when they face something inappropriate or worrying.
Sometimes young people are just waiting for an “in” to talk to you about something; they can feel like they “can’t tell my parents about that as they won’t understand” or “I won’t tell my parents about that as they will be angry”.
Giving them an opportunity to express their feelings or worries, and sharing successes, can lead to them talking about so much more. It is so important to let them explain fully and just take the time to listen to what they are actually saying.
There is such a lot going on in our young people's lives these days, that it is often difficult for them to manage the volume and variety of information that is thrown at them. They need guidance to help them prioritise and organise their thoughts, and to develop skills to deal with the challenges they face, and this can only come out of meaningful conversations with their elders.
Talking About their School Work
How often do you ask your children how their day went and they simply say ‘fine’ or ‘good’? Some of us may go further and ask them what they studied today or enjoyed. Very often the responses to these questions will be very brief and they can even become irritated by your interest, as children often see the day as finished as soon as they have got into the car. Dig a little deeper; ask them which subjects they had that day or what they were learning; ask them how they feel they are coping in that subject; when completing homework, take an interest in what they are working on and ask them to share what they have achieved. We are talking about 5 minute conversations that can be planned into your daily routine, allowing more open dialogue with your child about their education and a chance for them to further process what they have learnt that day. Go on - give it a go!
Often in our roles as teachers, students share their thoughts with us; they tell us about their concerns and experiences both inside and outside of school and, when asked if they have talked about this with their parents/guardians, they sometimes say no. It is for this reason that I wanted to raise the importance of dialogue between us and our young people. Try it – you might be surprised that, beneath all those grunts and groans, there still lives your amazing child.
Misuse of Social Media
Alongside all of this, there remains our need to be vigilant. We are expecting our young people, more and more, to be responsible for their own online lives. Again this comes with the need for a bit more digging by you. Recent activity in school has seen students with sufficient technical knowhow to set up VPNs (virtual private networks) to allow them to use applications such as Houseparty and Snapchat, outside of our protective network of security, on their school devices. Likewise, some students are using their mobile phones as “hotspots” again, to circumvent the protection provided by our school services.
With this in mind, I beg you to “go digging”. You provided your child with these very expensive pieces of equipment and therefore have an absolute right to explore what they are using it for. The only reason for not wanting to share their device content with you is that they are doing something they know they should not be, or of which you would disapprove.
We are always here, of course, to help support you and your child with any issues that may bring you concern and do our utmost to help in any way that we can. Working in collaboration with our parents is a priority for us, and open communication is always the best way forward. So come and “dig a little deeper” with us and we will ensure that our children’s school experiences are the “best years of their lives”.
Debra Hodder (Mrs)
Swans Secondary School
Details of our Care Team are listed below:
Educational Psychologist and Primary Wellbeing Support: Marta Bauluz
Primary School General: please feel free to discuss any concerns that you may have with your class teacher
Primary School Head of Pastoral Care and SENDco: Miss Anne White
Secondary School SENDco: Mr David Fletcher
Secondary School Head of Pastoral Care: Mrs Debra Hodder
Year 7: Miss Natalie Denton
Year 8: Mr. Ajaya Todd
Year 9: Miss Amelie Rault
Year 10: Miss Sandra Velazquez
Year 11: Miss Marisa Parsons
Years 12 and 13: Miss Michelle Roberts